Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jimmie Johnson captures his 5th straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship: The Top 7 NASCAR things learned from Race 10 of the chase in Homestead.

Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, sorry for the delay, I was under the weather. But wow, here we are the last edition of the top 7 NASCAR things learned from a particular race weekend of the 2010 NASCAR season and unlike in past years, Homestead finally lived up to most of the hype as it should every year.

Of course most of the hype was around the final three chase drivers still fighting for the Sprint Cup, namely points leader Denny Hamlin, second place Jimmie and third place Kevin Harvick. But Homestead was a 400 mile race that includes 43 drivers, not 3 like the Disney’s movie Cars. So I was watching a lot of battles including the highest finishing non-chase and personal victories.

1. A perfect example of NASCAR’s new policy of Letting The Inmates Run the Asylum with “Boy’s Have at it”. Feud part whatever: Logano vs. Montoya. During the race, Montoya wouldn’t give Logano any room and ended up wrecking him on a restart in front of huge group of cars including Denny Hamlin. But what the TV didn’t show or I just didn’t see it, Logano went back out on track and waited 25 laps, then took out Montoya under caution, putting Montoya into the outside wall.

2. Jimmie Johnson wins his fifth straight Sprint Cup Championship. On last Sunday, Jimmie Johnson made history by winning his fifth straight Cup Series championship, something no one including his co-owner Jeff Gordon has done and he did it five straight times. However I can see how this one is different, Johnson came in -15 points behind the points leader and had to fight for it in a one-race take all deal. And Johnson with the #48 team delivered and with a 2nd place finish clinched his fifth title and making Jimmie Johnson the best active driver in NASCAR.

3. Feud of the week: Kevin Harvick vs. Kyle Busch goes up in flames. Kyle Busch drivers everyone aggressively and at times dirty. So at Homestead, it didn’t surprise me that Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick would get together in one way or another. But while every driver wants space to race, not too many give it and Kyle Busch learned that the hard way as Busch cut in front of Harvick and no brake as Harvick clipped Busch, sending the #18 hard into the inside wall. As Kyle Busch drove around the racetrack on the apron, his car ignited up in flames and that moment ended his 2010 NASCAR season. And Kyle Busch got exactly what he deserved.

4. #11-Denny Hamlin/Joe Gibbs Racing team lost as a team. I’m NOT fan of Denny Hamlin at all and on last Sunday, Denny Hamlin lost the championship (sort of speak) before the race even started and then continued a downhill motion from there. After having a 12th place finish at Phoenix, Jimmie Johnson’s comments and the media hype, Denny Hamlin was feeling the pressure heading into Homestead and it showed.

But even more, so was the entire team. Throughout the weekend, the #11 team had a poor qualifying effect, Hamlin hit Greg Biffle in the rear quarter during the race, damaging both cars, the crew chief made a few bad calls on pit road including getting there, the crew on pit stops and Jimmie Johnson with the #48 team being on their game ended Denny Hamlin’s championship hopes period. They lost as a team period. End of discussion.

5. Carl Edwards gives Ford and Roush-Fenway Racing hope for 2011 after back to back wins at Phoenix and Homestead. I don’t know if Carl Edwards is going to be really hunt for the 2011 Sprint Cup, but over the last few weeks, Carl Edwards has won two races and finished 4th in points and that is a good sign that Ford can win.

6. All three RCR teams are champion material in 2011.

7. Kevin Harvick had the best overall performance all season long and in 2011 will be a threat for the 2011 Sprint Cup Series championship if he can relax and stop yelling at his life line, his pit crew and crew chief.

Well that’s not all folks, between now (Wednesday, November 24, 2010) and the 2010 Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony on Dec. 3 at Wynn Las Vegas, I will be rapping up the 2010 NASCAR season with several look backs including was my predictions a hit or miss. And be sure to comment in the comment section on what you think of this article and season.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Final Predictions: Who will be the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion: Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson Or Kevin Harvick?

As the sun set in Phoenix last Sunday, Carl Edwards and the #99 team found themselves gambling on fuel mileage and it paid off big time as they went to victory lane in the Cup Series for the first time in 2010 and break a two-year winless drought.

At the same time, while Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick made their fuel mileage game work for both of them as well to finish 5th and 6th, the championship leader Denny Hamlin found himself pitting for fuel late on, finishing in the 12 spot and frustrated.

Personally I thought that everybody was going to have to pit for fuel as well. It didn’t even cross my mind that several drivers could actually make it on fuel to the end. But thank god that they did, because the Phoenix II race was shaping up in a unusually boring race and a large championship lead heading into Homestead.

Now of course after the fuel mileage finish at Phoenix, NASCAR, the media and some of the NASCAR fans have gotten there wish, we now have one of the closes chases in the chase history on our hands heading into the season finale at Homestead. And of course the sponsor for this race now gets what they want sort of speak with the Ford Championship weekend actually meaning the big race will include a championship on the line, unlike in past years.

So with that said, here is my opinion on each driver, what they need to do and who ultimately is going to the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

- Kevin Harvick, who is 46 points out of the championship lead. As Happy Harvick continues his rants on Twitter and playing the “no respect” card saying “@dstrissel disrespect is what has been given for 10 weeks to our team from all the media so the heck with them all!”

The fact of the matter is, Kevin Harvick and the #29 team have there work cut out on Sunday if they want to win the championship, but make no mistake, it can be done especially if his other two competitors have there normal Homestead races.

For these guys, its simple, Harvick needs to qualify upfront, jump to the lead, lead the most laps, win the race and let the chips fall were they may. That’s all that they can. Hell, if they get behind, they can gamble on fuel or get two tires for track position, to try and win the race that way. They have nothing to lose and all to gain on Sunday.

- Jimmie Johnson, who is only –15 behind the championship leader. For the first time in several years, Jimmie Johnson and the #48 team find themselves in unchartered waters. Normally they would come into Homestead with a good lead in the chase and all they would have to do is just finish in a decent place to win the championship.

But for 2010, they have to race for it and that could be a good thing for them. Johnson has never won at Homestead before and now considering the fact that Chad Knaus is on top of the pit box making the calls, Johnson has to have a good qualifying effort, a good solid pit position (not near the #11) and at least a top 5 finish on Sunday to have a shot to win the championship. And he’s the favorite to win.

- Denny Hamlin, who leads the chase has everything to lose on Sunday and from where I sit, that will be interesting to watch. Nobody really knows the strategy for the #11 team on Sunday, but I’m sure it wouldn’t include gambling in anyway. If most of the field pits, he pits, 4 tires and fuel. The pit stops have to dead on, 12.5 seconds or better to maintain position on track.

Who will win the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship?
Let’s be honest here, anything can happen during Sunday’s Ford 400 for any of the championship competitors, another competitor can take one out especially with payback, any of them can get a flat tire, a blown engine, a leak, be caught up in heavy lap traffic, anything.

But with that said, I don’t see Denny Hamlin winning his first title in 2010. Hamlin hasn’t been in this position before as the championship leader going into the season finale and with his history of blown engines and traffic playing a role, I just don’t see it.

Kevin Harvick, I see Harvick playing a big role in who wins the championship. Harvick has nothing to lose on Sunday and is in a good position to win. But while he is in a good position, he’s not in the best. He, like Hamlin has never been here before, but unlike Hamlin, Harvick has a better shot, just look at Formula One as Sebastian Vettel came from 3rd in the points to win his first championship in the last race, but like Vettel, he will need help.

But I have to go with experience, talent and skill and Jimmie Johnson/the #48 team has that especially with a golden horseshoe for luck. So I choose Jimmie Johnson to win his fifth straight Cup Series championship.


I know that some believe that if Johnson wins his fifth straight, it would be bad for the sport, but I don’t think so. Johnson has proven himself as a racecar driver time and time again and he represents this sport very well as a champion.

In 2010, Johnson has come out even further and as a once Vanilla driver, isn’t no more. Johnson does speak, he does show emotion, both good and bad and acts like a championship driver should. I know he doesn’t come from North Caroline, but who cares, neither does most fans including me.

Johnson is exactly what this sport needs and he doesn’t wreck people just for the fun of it neither. He races pretty clean and that’s what a good driver is to me.

As for Sunday’s Ford 400, Brad Daugherty said it the best on Inside NASCAR on Showtime later tonight, “You cannot play this race safe. You have to throw caution to the wind and get yourself up front. You have to be on your game, driving as hard as you can.”

Any thoughts?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick separated by only 46 points after the Kobalt Tools 500 in Phoenix: The Top 7 NASCAR things learned from Race 9 of the chase.

Welcome readers, after this past weekend’s racing at Phoenix International Raceway, the NASCAR Cup Series chase for the Sprint Cup has just one race to go in the 2010 season and now sees a 3-man battle for the championship heading into the season finale next weekend. So what are the top 7 NASCAR things learned from Phoenix II race.

1. Johnson and Harvick gain in points heading into Homestead. As the Kobalt Tools 500 in Phoenix was passing the midway point, Hamlin found himself upfront, but as the checkered flag flow, Denny Hamlin found himself finishing 12th after a late race pit stop, while his championship contenders Jimmie Johnson finished 5th, closes to -15 points behind Hamlin and Kevin Harvick finished 6th and closes to -46 behind leader Hamlin.

Well despite having the chase, NASCAR has a tight points battle on their hands as the top 3 in points are separated by only -46 points, that’s interesting and none of the top 3 drivers are favorites to win at Homestead. Homestead is a Roush-Fenway Racing track and Edwards and Biffle are favorites. Good luck.

2. Todd Bodine clinches the 2010 NASCAR Truck Series Drivers Championship. Yeah, after several tight points battles in the Truck Series over the last few years, Truck Series fans wouldn’t see that fight next week at Homestead because the 2010 Truck Series championship has already been clinched with one race to go by Todd Bodine, who finished 12th last Friday night. But for Germain Racing, life isn’t all championships as Kyle Busch Motorsports has a big lead in the Owner’s Championship.

It’s kind of sad to see the driver’s championship go to one driver with team, while the Owner’s Championship go to another team despite the fact that NASCAR is a team sport, but that’s NASCAR.

3. Ron Hornaday Jr. signs multi-year deal with KHI to drive in the Truck Series. Yes, despite having a lot of bad luck most of the season, KHI has signed Hornaday to drive the #33 Truck for years to come. I believe that this is a good move for KHI. Hornaday can still contend and win races and championships in 2011 and beyond without doubt. I expect Hornaday to be a contender in 2011.

4. ESPN, cover at least the top 20 including non-chase drivers already, enough with just the top 3 chasers. Every week, I sit here watching the Cup Series races on television and its frustrating seeing ESPN basically only cover the top 3 in points and the chase for the Sprint Cup. I want to see the racing all the way through the field and what other drivers are doing. This is racing, I want to see it period. Hell, last week I didn’t even see Dale Earnhardt Jr. all race long, at least I saw him this race.

5. Joey Logano of non-chasers is very impressive right now. Logano now has his 3rd straight top 5 finish after Phoenix and now finds himself in the top 15 in points.

6. The Kobalt Tools 500 (312 miles) is the perfect length for most NASCAR Cup Series race. This past weekend’s race at PIR only took less than 3 hours to run and I believe that 312 miles, 312 laps is the perfect distance for most Cup Series races hands down. It’s not too many miles and it’s not too short, it works, maybe NASCAR can have all but 6 races with this same distance. I will get into this one deeper over at BVBLG on BrianVermette.com

7. Carl Edwards breaks 2-year winless drought by winning the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix.

Well, here we are, as the Phoenix sun sets and the checkered flag has flow, the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is down to one to go, Homestead…episode 10…to be continued next week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inside NASCAR not impressed with Jeff Gordon vs. Jeff Burton fight at Texas and compares them to other fights in history including Harvick vs. Biffle at Bristol.



The media and the NASCAR fans are still buzzing about several key moments during last Sunday's AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway from the Kyle Busch penalty, the #48 and #24 pit crew swap that is also in effect for the remainder of the season, but the big one is the so-called fight between Jeff Gordona nd Jeff Burton had even lite up Twitter for a while during the race and in post-race.

Well now even the Inside NASCAR on Showtime bunch has had there say in it and from the video above, they weren't too impressed especially Michael Waltrip.

Personally the 1979 Daytona 500 fight on the last lap inside the infield on the final lap was a classic as well as Kevin Harvick vs. Greg Biffle at Bristol with Harvick clearing two cars just to land right in front of Biffle, man was Biffle surprised.

Of course for more of my comments on all three of these key moments from last Sunday at Texas, besure to check out my blog post entitled "NASCAR: Jeff Gordon vs. Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch vs. NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports swap 24 and 48 pit crews for rest of season after AAA Texas 500 at Texas." on my new personal blog BVBLG on BrianVermette.com.

Monday, November 8, 2010

NASCAR: Denny Hamlin leads chase over Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick heading into Phoenix; Nationwide and Truck Owner’s Championship still on the line as well with 2 to go.

As the 2010 NASCAR racing season is coming down to the end, at this point, we are normally talking about at least one NASCAR championship in one of the three national series that will come down to the final race. However this year we are in fact only really talking about one championship and that would be the chase for the Sprint up in the Cup Series. But did you know that in fact there are three championships still yet to be determined in NASCAR?

The Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship is on with 3 drivers in the hunt

Heading into this past weekend’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson held a slim 14 point lead over 2nd place Denny Hamlin and a 38 point lead over 3rd place Kevin Harvick.

However with just 3 races to go heading into Texas, the fact is that a good top 10 finish just simply isn’t going to be enough if the other points contenders finish in the top 3 or win the race. And that’s exactly what happened at Texas.

All three chase contenders each had their high points and low points during the race on Sunday, but it was Denny Hamlin that emerged victorious at Texas winning the AAA Texas 500. While his two rival championship contenders both found themselves finishing outside the top 5.

Kevin Harvick would run pretty good for most of the day, but it would be a late race caution that would save Harvick and the #29 team from disaster when the #29 crew got there boy out in front of the cars that pitted after a two tire stop and on the inside line for the final restart. Kevin Harvick would end up marching his way up through the field to finish in the 6th place. Harvick would gain and loss all at the same time in the points as Harvick now finds himself 59 points behind leader Denny Hamlin.

Jimmie Johnson on the other hand would get hurt most of the day as a combination of bad pits stops during most of the race and an ill handing car would make Johnson fight for each position. However as NASCAR fans have come to almost expect, Johnson would rebound enough to go towards the top 5 after the #24 pitted his car.

But on the final restart with no new tires and starting on the outside line behind Greg Biffle, Johnson would fall back as Biffle who had no 2nd gear and stalled in front of Johnson. And Johnson would fail to rebound no better than a 9th place finish.

For the first time in years, Johnson now finds himself 2nd in points, -33 points behind Denny Hamlin with two races to go. But the prediction here is different as I believe that Johnson will go out, lead the most laps and win next week at Phoenix, closing the points gap and making this a race for the championship go into Homestead (which I will address next week).

Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship

Last Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Brad Keselowski, who had a huge points lead over Carl Edwards in the Nationwide Series Drivers championship clinched his first NASCAR drivers championship with a 3rd place finish in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. Congrats to Brad Keselowski, hell of a job.

However in the Nationwide Series, there is a second championship still up for grabs with 2 races to go and that would be the Owner’s Championship. Yes race fans, Penske Racing hasn’t won the championship yet and #18- Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota normally driven by Kyle Busch still holds the lead with an 81 point lead over Penske Racing with the #22 Dodge driven by Brad Keselowski.

I’m not surprised that this Owners’ championship has ended up like this and JGR can thank Kyle Busch for this one and in one part to Kyle Busch putting Brad Keselowski into the wall at the summer Bristol Nationwide Series race. So if the points stay the same it could be Brad Keselowski winning the drivers championship and JGR as the Owner’s Championship and I have a feeling that’s exactly how it’s going to happen.

Truck Series Owner’s Championship

With 2 races to go in the Truck Series season, the drivers championship is just about over considering the points leader Todd Bodine has a 230 point lead over second place Aric Almirola, the main focus now turns to the Owner’s Championship that ironically looks a lot like the Nationwide’s Series Owner’s Championship with #18-Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota having a 72 point lead over second place #30-Germain Racing Toyota.

In a lot of the same ways as the Nationwide Series Owner’s Championship, I would say borrowing a bad finish, the standings with stay the same with Todd Bodine as the drivers champion and Kyle Busch Motorsports winning the Owner’s championship.

I do have to say one thing in that I think it sucks that when a full-time driver with the same team all season long wins the drivers championship only, that is terrible, but that’s racing and as of now that’s NASCAR’s way of thinking.

Thoughts?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and wild card Martin Truex Jr. are the ones to watch in Race 8 of the Chase at Texas.

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rolls into Race 8 of the chase for the Sprint Cup Championship in the Long Star state at Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s race, the numbers have changed in the points standings after the spoiler Clint Bowyer survived the Big one and narrowly beating his teammate Kevin Harvick to win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Right now, Jimmie Johnson has a slim 14 point lead over second place Denny Hamlin and a 38 point lead over third place Kevin Harvick. As of now, it’s the top 3 in points that are contending for the championship with 3 races to go.

However as the top 3 in points as well as chase driver Jeff Gordon are the favorites heading into Texas Motor Speedway, the non-chase drivers are more of the ones to watch again this week including MWR driver Martin Truex Jr. who is coming off a 6th place finish at Talladega last week and heading into Texas will be driving a special NAPA Paint Scheme that features more than 2,400 names of breast cancer survivors and victims written in pink on a blue car.

Anytime I see a special paint scheme that honors the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, I tend to take notice and while I don’t know anyone in my life that is a breast cancer survivor, I am blessed to have my sister, my mother, my grandmother in my life today.


No. 56 car breast cancer tribute paint scheme to run this weekend in Texas - The NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota will feature more than 2,400 names of breast cancer survivors and victims written in pink on the blue car. Additionally, NAPA AUTO PARTS is donating $250,000 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

(Photos Source: MSLGroup for NAPA AUTO PARTS and Michael Waltrip Racing)